(1) WEBSITE SECURITY. “Safety Dispatch: How to Secure Your Author Website” from the SFWA Safety Committee. Sections on choosing a hosting service, domain registration, and the like, are followed with some wisdom about choosing content.
Carefully Choose What to Share
Your author bio doesn’t have to list family members, your hometown, or any other identity markers you aren’t comfortable sharing. You’re not obligated to mention your birthday, your employer, or your involvement with other organizations, through which somebody might find details about your identity and location that you don’t wish to share. Some authors are transparent about all of these things, and some aren’t. There isn’t a single right answer to sharing information about your life online. But if you think about the boundaries you would like to set in advance, you’ll find it easier to avoid posting information that you can’t take back.
Photographs can also be sources of more information than you intend. Pay attention to what’s in the background of any photos you post on your website or on social media, such as exterior shots of your home or distinctive landmarks through your windows. Turn off geolocation metadata when you take photos or make sure you know how to remove it before posting images online.
(2) TRADPUB PAY HIKES. Two publishers recently raised their starting salaries, perhaps hoping to forestall the labor action current facing HarperCollins – Publishers Weekly reports “HBG Raises Starting Salaries to $47,500” and “Macmillan Raises Starting Salaries to $47,500”. It’s hard not to notice the figures are identical – collusion, anyone?
(3) SOONERCON. Oklahoma pop-culture event Soonercon announced a new graphic design and branding yesterday, along with a new mascot.
We are excited today to reveal an all new look and feel for Soonercon! We’ve been working closely these past few months with our Diamond Sponsor Robot House to rebrand Soonercon for the modern era. We started this journey with the Soonercon story and two words came forward: community and hope. Armed with that (and whole heck of a lot more words about our special convention), Robot House designed these new logos for us, a friendly and forward color scheme, and fonts to take us into the future.
Even more exciting, say hello to Ripley Raccoon, Soonercon’s new mascot! Ripley is curious, always learning, loves art and reading, and has a whole lot of hobbies – just like our members.
In the Soonercon Cosplay Facebook group the change received a mixed greeting. Some liked it. Some criticized it for resembling sites aimed at kids, others for lacking any sci-fi identity.
(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to collaborate over breakfast with Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni in Episode 191 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Anyone who’s listened to more than a few episodes of Eating the Fantastic already knows — collaboration confuses me. Tell me two writers have managed to work together on the same project without blood on the floor and a lifelong feud and I’m baffled. So when I learned previous guests of the show Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni had collaborated on the short story collection Things Left Behind, released last year by Thunderstorm Books, I knew we’d have to chat about it.
We met for breakfast at Martinsburg, West Virginia’s Blue White Grill, which has been serving diner food since the ’50s.
Brian’s published more than 40 novels, including the best-selling The Rising, and he’s the winner of the 2014 World Horror Grand Master Award, while Mary is the author of The Hollower trilogy, the first volume of which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. There’s a whole lot more to know about each of them, as you’ll learn if you listen to those two earlier episodes.
We discussed how being intimidated by each other helps their collaborative process, their different tolerances for writing gore (and how that’s changed over time), the romantic reason (up until this episode known to only one of them) their collaborative short story collection came about, which of them once wrote 45,000 words in a day, how they came to agree on a joint dedication, who gives each story its final polish (and who get the final say on sending it to market), how Brian attempted to bleed all over Mary’s upcoming Alien novel, the way they approach their own deaths, their honeymoon book tour hitting every state but Alaska and Hawaii, their upcoming collaborative novel, and much more.
(5) MIDDLE-EARTH LEGO SET. “The 6,167-Piece Rivendell Is the One Lego Lord of the Rings Set to Rule Them All” – Gizmodo takes readers on a tour. (See even more on the Lego website.)
…Although Lego’s Rivendell even includes the place where Aragon and Boromir first meet next to the shrine featuring the shards of Narsil, it appears as if the minifigure version of Boromir has yet to cut his finger on the still-sharp sword. But that’s nothing a red Sharpie can’t fix.
As peaceful as Rivendell appears, the elves are still well regarded for their weapons, and not only does this set come with a well-stocked armory, but also a glowing forge for creating Lhangs and other stabby tools for making short work of orcs and goblins.
There’s nothing worse than working your way through a textbook-sized Lego instruction manual only to come across a step that has to be repeated countless times that dramatically slows down your build progress. That is undoubtedly the case with the tiled roof atop Rivendell—each 1×1 Lego tile will have to be attached and aligned individually—but the results look like they’re definitely worth the effort.
Although Lego did release a mountain (of doom) of images of its new LOTR Rivendell set, there still appear to be lots of details not highlighted yet. So if you’re still on the fence over whether you want to make room to add this sizeable set to your collection, you can take a quick tour of its entire layout using this 360-degree animation….
(6) SOMETIMES THEY’RE RIGHT. [Item by David Goldfarb.] On last night’s episode of Jeopardy! in the Double Jeopardy round, “That’s Dedication”, $1200:
Douglas Adams dedicated this title guy’s “Holistic Detective Agency”,
“To my mother, who liked the bit about the horse”
Returning champion Matthew Marcus correctly responded, “Who is Dirk Gently?”
“Comedy Time”, $800:
1960s: General Buck Turgidson wants to explore the nuclear option
Dan Wohl responded, “What is Doctor Strangelove?”
(7) TCHAIKOVSKY Q&A. Moid Moidelhoff conducts “An Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children Of Memory and Beyond” at Media Death Cult.
(8) OMNIVOROUS READER. A New York Times interview: “Jojo Moyes’s Grandmother Knew a Bookworm When She Saw One”.
Do you distinguish between “commercial” and “literary” fiction? Where’s that line, for you?
Not in terms of my appetite for reading — I read everything from thrillers to literary fiction to comic books. And I’m enjoying the fact that the line appears to have become increasingly blurred between them. If someone I trust tells me something’s good, I’ll give it a go.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I was an only child and a voracious reader. My grandmother called me a bookworm, and it wasn’t a compliment, as my weekly visits to her were usually spent with my nose buried between the pages. The books that have stayed with me are “The Black Stallion,” by Walter Farley, and “The Secret Garden,” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and, as a teenager, the books of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was also a compulsive reader of horror — I could not read horror now if you paid me.
(9) LEE MODER OBITUARY. Comics artist Lee Moder died around January 15 says Deadline.
Comic book artist Lee Moder, who co-created the Courtney Whitmore version of Stargirl with Geoff Johns in 1999, has passed away, according to ComicBook.com and statements from his peers. The web site cited a family friend, who indicated that Moder died quietly at home sometime on or before January 15th. No cause of his death was given. Moder was 53.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1982 — Paul Weimer offers us his thoughts on Robert Heinlein’s Friday.
Heinlein’s Friday is, in my mind, unquestionably the strongest of the late Heinleins. It starts with a strong and indelible paragraph that introduces and defines the character. The world of the novel, a sequel to the story “Gulf” is also a refutation of that story’s thesis, and shows the evolved thinking Heinlein had about that earlier story’s assumptions. The balkanized America of the novel is a chaotic and interesting place, from its vividly imagined Democracy run amok California to the mighty and autocratic Chicago Imperium.
Its ideas on corporations, artificial personhood, and more are thought provoking. Friday is far and away the most successful of the late Heinlein novels in what it tries to do, and remains the most readable by a large margin.
And now the Beginning of that novel…
As I left the Kenya Beanstalk capsule he was right on my heels. He followed me through the door leading to Customs, Health, and Immigration. As the door contracted behind him I killed him.
I have never liked riding the Beanstalk. My distaste was full-blown even before the disaster to the Quito Skyhook. A cable that goes up into the sky with nothing to hold it up smells too much of magic. But the only other way to reach Ell-Five takes too long and costs too much; my orders and expense account did not cover it.
So I had been edgy even before I left the shuttle from Ell-Five at Stationary Station to board the Beanstalk capsule…but, damn it, being edgy isn’t reason to kill a man. I had intended only to put him out for a few hours.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 9, 1863 — Anthony Hope. He is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Well so says online sources but I never heard of the latter novel. Any of you heard of it? The Prisoner of Zenda was filmed in 1936 with the legendary Ronald Coleman in the lead and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Rupert. (Died 1933.)
- Born February 9, 1877 — George Allan England. His short story, “The Thing from—’Outside’”, which had originally appeared in Gernsback’s Science and Invention, was reprinted in the first issue of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories, in April 1926. Unfortunately, his later Darkness and Dawn trilogy is badly marred by overt racism as later critics note. (Died 1936.)
- Born February 9, 1928 — Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers were Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Conan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did over-muscled barbarians very well! In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
- Born February 9, 1935 — R. L. Fanthorpe, 88. He was a pulp writer for UK publisher Badger Books during the 1950s and 1960s during which he wrote under some sixty pen names. I think he wrote several hundred genre novels during that time but no two sources agree on just how many he wrote. Interestingly nothing is available by him digitally currently though his hard copy offerings would fill a wing of a small rural library. He’d be perfect for the usual suspects I’d say.
- Born February 9, 1946 — Clive Walter Swift. His first genre appearance was as Snug in that version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968). Several years thereafter he was Dr. Black in “A Warning to the Curious” (based on a ghost story by British writer M. R. James).Then he’s Ector, whoever that character is, in Excalibur. He shows up next in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Revelation of a The Daleks” as Professor Jobel. (Died 2019.)
- Born February 9, 1951 — Justin Gustainis, 72. Author of two series so far, one being the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series which he’s written three superb novels in so far, and the other being the Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations series which has seven novels and which I’ve not read yet. Who’s read the latter series?
- Born February 9, 1953 — Ciaran Hinds, 70. I can’t picture him but he’s listed as being King Lot in Excalibur, that being his credited his genre role. He next shows up in Mary Reilly, a riff off the Hyde theme, as Sir Danvers Care. I’ve next got him in Jason and the Argonauts as King Aeson followed by being in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life as Jonathan Reiss. (Yes I like those films.) before being replaced in the next film, he played Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Two final roles worth noting. he played The Devil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Steppenwolf In Justice League.
- Born February 9, 1956 — Timothy Truman, 67. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack with John Ostrander, along with Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volumes 1 and 2. For the Hex work, I’d say get Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Heart of the City is about a family’s plans to go to a con.
- Bizarro’s Star Wars-themed joke today proves again why this comic bears the name it has.
(13) EKPEKI Q&A. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues their Black History Month theme with “Black Heritage in Horror: Interview with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
It’s familiarity. The way that it approached all these very real issues we experienced and lived everyday in ways that were innocent and enticing enough to consume when we shied away from the stark reality of it.
Do you make a conscious effort to include African diaspora characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
Yes. It’s a conscious, deliberate decolonization process for me. A reclamation of my identity and these pieces of myself, culture, identity that were eroded with slavery and colonialism….
(14) LET THE WOOKIEE WIN. “Chewbacca: Peter Mayhew’s Wife Slams Auction for Star Wars Sale” reports Variety. Things the Mayhews abandoned in an attic when they moved were scheduled to go under the hammer.
Angie Mayhew, the wife of the late “Star Wars” actor Peter Mayhew, is speaking out against an upcoming auction in which Peter’s “Star Wars” memorabilia will be sold. Ryedale Auctioneers is selling “Star Wars” scripts, call-sheets and more that were discovered in Peter Mayhew’s attic after his death. Peter starred as Chewbacca in George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” trilogy. Angie took to Twitter to say the auction “really breaks [her] heart.”
“When we moved out of this house, Peter’s movement challenges made it impossible for him to get into the attic to get the rest of these memories,” Angie wrote. “It really breaks my heart to see our belongings auctioned off like this by [auction house founder] Angus Ashworth and Ryedale Auctioneers.”
“It was one of Peter’s and my biggest regrets that we had to leave these items behind,” Angie added. “His knees and joints had gotten to be so painful that he was no longer able to go into the attic to get them.”
Several hours after posting, Angie updated fans using the Peter Mayhew Foundation account and said that she had a Zoom meeting with the auction house.
“I communicated our desire that Peter’s items be returned to the Mayhew family,” Angie wrote. “Will keep everyone posted as progress is made – thank you for the continued support!”…
(15) INFLATION RATE. Not that you ever doubted it: “Chinese Balloon Had Tools to Collect Communications Signals, U.S. Says” in the New York Times.
The Chinese spy balloon shot down by the U.S. military over the Atlantic Ocean was capable of collecting communications signals and was part of a fleet of surveillance balloons directed by the Chinese military that had flown over more than 40 countries across five continents, the State Department said Thursday.
The United States used high resolution imagery from U-2 flybys to determine the balloon’s capabilities, the department said in a written announcement, adding that the balloon’s equipment “was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather balloons.”
The agency said the balloon had multiple antennas in an array that was “likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications.” Solar panels on the machine were large enough to produce power to operate “multiple active intelligence collection sensors,” the department said.
The agency also said the U.S. government was “confident” that the company that made the balloon had direct commercial ties with the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, citing an official procurement portal for the army. The department did not name the company….
(16) SQUINTING IN SPACE. Nature reports the first space-based discovery of an exoplanet using microlensing. Primary research paper here.
K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb is the first bound micro-lensing exoplanet discovered from space-based data.
The system lies at a distance of 5.2 ± 0.2 kpc (17,000 light years if my maths is right?) from Earth towards the Galactic bulge, more than twice the distance of the previous most distant planet found by Kepler. The sky-projected separation of the planet from its host is found to be 4.2 ± 0.3 au (1 au being the distance between the Earth and the Sun).
According to current planet formation models, this system is very close to the host mass threshold below which Jupiters are not expected to form…
(17) 00P$. “Google AI chatbot Bard sends shares plummeting after it gives wrong answer” reports the Guardian. “Chatbot Bard incorrectly said James Webb Space Telescope was first to take pictures of planet outside Earth’s solar system.”
Google’s response to ChatGPT has got off to an embarrassing start after its new artificial intelligence-powered chatbot gave a wrong answer in a promotional video, as investors wiped more than $100bn (£82bn) off the value of the search engine’s parent company, Alphabet.
The sell-off on Wednesday came amid investor fears that Microsoft, which is deploying an ChatGPT-powered version of its Bing search engine, will damage Google’s business. Alphabet stock slid by 9% during regular trading in the US but was flat after hours.
Experts pointed out that promotional material for Bard, Google’s competitor to Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, contained an error in the response by the chatbot to: “What new discoveries from the James Webb space telescope (JWST) can I tell my nine-year old about?”…
(18) APPARENT VIOLATION OF THE ROCHE LIMIT. Of course you know what that is. Errr…. “Astronomers Discover Unexpected Ring around Distant Dwarf Planet” at Sky & Telescope.
The distant dwarf planet 500000 Quaoar appears to have a ring that spans far beyond where it ought to be stable. “That is not where it was supposed to be,” says Bruno Morgado (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), lead author of a team of 59 astronomers who report the discovery in Nature.
French astronomer Edouard Roche defined the concept of the Roche limit in 1848, calculating where a planet’s tidal forces would exceed the gravitational force holding a moon together. Inside that region, the stronger gravitational force of the planet overpowers the moon’s gravity and that tidal pull eventually tears the moon apart. Only outside that limit can small objects, dust, and debris coalesce under their own gravity to form a moon. With the ring’s discovery, the Roche limit may need a rethink….
How much trouble can they get into for violating the Roche Limit? John A Arkansawyer guesses, “They might get thrown out of the Astronomical Union?”
(19) DID THE EARTH MOVE FOR YOU? Matt O’Dowd of PBS Space Time displays multiple different ways of looking at the same question in “How Earth REALLY Moves Through the Galaxy”.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cliff, David Goldfarb, Steven French, Scott Edelman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John A Arkansawyer, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day by Daniel Dern.]